Simplified: A group of central Sioux Falls neighbors is looking to turn the site of a former elementary school into a public park in an effort to preserve green space in the city's most densely populated area.

Why it matters

  • The site at the heart of these discussions is a vacant block at Ninth Street at Grange Avenue. Formerly, it held Lincoln Elementary School, which was demolished in 2006 after nearly a decade sitting empty. Today, it's in the heart of a neighborhood with more than 1,600 households, many of whom live in multi-family units or apartments with little to no green space.
  • Neighbors already use the 2.7 acre lot – which is owned by the Sioux Falls School District – for recreation and as a community garden, neighborhood volunteer Lura Roti said. But she and about a dozen others are working to make it officially "Lincoln Park," with features including a dog park, basketball court, picnic tables and green space for kids to play.
  • The school district declined to comment for this story because plans for a park on that site are "not currently in discussion," per an email from spokesman Tory Stolen.
  • Roti and others gathered for a neighborhood meeting Monday to circulate petitions, and they've already got the support of at least one City Council member, Councilor Greg Neitzert, who said he'd like to see the wheels in motion to make the park a reality before his time in office is up next spring.
"It's served kids for 100 years," Neitzert said of the land, citing its history as a school. "I think it'd be perfect if it could serve kids another 100 years as a park."

Tell me more

The "Save Lincoln Park" effort focuses on several benefits it believes a park will bring to the neighborhood, including:

  • Creating a community gathering space,
  • Having green space for those who do not have access to a yard,
  • Spurring investment and revitalization in the surrounding homes,
  • And the continued ability to grow fresh produce in an area where some live in designated food deserts.
"Having more green space in the urban environment is important for the people and for the ecology, too," said neighbor Evan Caldwell, who helped design a rendering of what the park could look like.
Rendering of the neighbors' proposed design for Lincoln Park

There's also concern among neighbors that without a park at the old Lincoln Elementary site, kids would have to cross a high-traffic street like 10th or 11th Street to get to a nearby park in any direction.

What happens next?

Because the land is owned by the school district, it'll be up to the district to figure out its future.

  • Neitzert said he understands the district needs to do its "due diligence" in exploring all possible options for the land, but he's hoping to see a scenario where the district is willing to gift or sell the land to the city.

Roti encouraged those who want to support seeing the land turned into a park to write letters to school board members and city councilors urging them to support the effort.